Without further ado I will pick up where I left off from Raid on Vestisle Part 5 as so many supporters here and on Fife and Drum Forum expressed their keenness to find out how the story of our mini-campaign ends. In fact I can't fully conclude it in this post as there is too much to tell but I will wrap up the wargames table top action for the Battle of Abrantes.
So we resumed after lunch but I was in for a bit of a shock as both Graham's had to go early. Graham C of course had responsibility for half the French army but faced a very long drive up most of England back to Redcar. We all thanked him for being a wonderful guest and Guy complimented him on his tactical skill and excellent dice rolling all morning which had helped keep Dillon in check! But what to do - as clearly Guy could not work all those units and finish the game in time? Only one answer - I had to give up my tea making role and actually do some work. Personally if I've organised the game I'm much happier seeing how both sides cope, and offering hopefully helpful decisions and steerage as umpire so, gentle reader. you will have to bear with me now. Not enough time to take plenty of photos just when needed, scrappy notes based on briefings from players in between moves, forgetting to write down what some key units achieved.......Anyway, let's press on.
11th August 1756: 0720 - Fortunes equal out along the battle line
I got off to a good start as, in the Jacobite camp, Simon Fraser Master of Lovatt, rolled a double move for all the clan battalions which was ideal as I could surge most of them out of the gate in one turn. The MacDonalds relished this and hared off after the retreating Campbells, cutting them completely to pieces in the woods! Not without loss though, now getting to 5 Hits and retreating back to recover, job done!
|Jacobites surge out of the camp entrance. Montgomery's loyal Scots can only continue their retreat over Bellune Hill covered by a light battery and the reserve field battery from Von Brunck's Hanoverian corps - looking likely to soon be overwhelmed.|
|Close up shows the large MacDonald clan battalion getting the better of the Government Campbells|
The two Hanoverian battalions formed a solid red wall which, for the moment, would stop any access by the clansmen to the British main line along the road to Abrantes and behind them much damage was being done. It was time for Dillon to move forward with von Aststadt's German and British Light cavalry brigade and the fast moving force bore down on Lauzun's light battery and surrounded it; the survivors were captured and the cavalry turned to outflank the remainder of Lauzun's small force (no pic sorry, too busy trying to sort out my own mess!)
In the big cavalry melee at the French left centre there was mutual destruction - one of Von Trump's German cuirassiers for the Royal Allemand cavalry regiment (or is the Royal Carabineers - these units have got a bit mixed!)
|Mutual dispersion of German and French cavalry on the Bellune - Abrantes road|
Out on the French right De Muy was organising something of a counter attack. On the Cime D'Abrantes one of the facing German musketeer battalions was destroyed by the elite French units. However, on the Cime de Cassatte Berard's two cavalry regiments pressed on with their efforts and came unstuck under flanking fire from the Jagers. The Dragoons were destroyed and the Cuirassiers forced to retreat.
|In this overall view of the Cassatte Valley Berard's cavalry brigade can be seen making a hasty retreat leaving the Jagers and Finckelstein Dragoons in control of the Cime de Cassatte ridge|
0740 - Complete Jacobite success but French left flank collapses
The surge of the Highlanders continued but not against the Hanoverian line on the main table. Instead the Camerons proceeded at speed towards Bellune Hill and attacked the Hanoverian artillery battery. Surprisingly the dice outcome dictated the battery got away and was not overwhelmed, nevertheless the fate of this flank was looking sealed now.
However, under Dillon's confident command, von Brunck's infantry and artillery and von Aststadt's light cavalry were working well together. They had got rid of the French Marines and Lauzun's artillery and now turned on the Lauzun Hussars and hit the flank of the Grenadiers de Lauzun. who had not had time to turn, although Von Aststadt was killed as the Grenadiers went down fighting. The Hussars were destroyed by the 15th Light Dragoons but the Comte de Lauzun proved miraculously (!) and heroically to survive the onslaught even though he had now lost all the elements of his brigade. The 15th swept on and hit the flank of the Gendarmerie a Cheval (in red so I think it's them). Joubarbe's last cavalry regiment seemed to get dispersed in the rush of horses towards the rear. I claim I was not incompetent in charge of these remnants of Graham's flank, merely totally outnumbered!
|Grenadiers and Hussars hit in the flank|
|and the 15th Light Dragoons cut right through to the Gendarmerie too|
The main cavalry melee continued - The Mousquetaires regiment fighting von Trump's second Cuirassier regiment, and this resulted in the retreat of the Germans and of the Mousquetaires, and a vacant space where the action had been!
|A wider view of the same action|
Apart from the isolated Highlanders the main French line now could only anchor its left flank on the bridge across the Ruisseau de Veste.
In the centre British cannon and musket fire was making it very hot for the French infantry round the farm but up on the Abrantes Ridge the French were holding up well maintaining an odd shaped line along the contours. The German musketeers of von Pannewitz were having difficulty making any headway up the valley as Guy had continually extended his line to the right, with the strong elite infantry brigade now completely blocking any route to Abrantes harbour and beach. But Ken was resolute and totally cool as usual, the cream of his army was as yet unengaged - Maxwell's Grenadiers and the elite Dragoon Guards brigade (which was now on the table on the Cime de Cassatte), and he still had a 5 battalion Hessian brigade in reserve just off the table down the valley.
This set of photographs gives a tour westwards along the French lines.
|German musketeer battalions are falling back onto Maxwell's Grenadiers. Note that Abrantes city suburbs are now empty of troops|
|A nice close up of Guy's beautiful French Garde Francaise|
|Elite French and mercenary infantry, reinforced by the line battalions from Abrantes make a sturdy looking line across the approaches to the harbour.|
|On the Cime de Cassatte Finckenstein's Dragoons are now backed up by Sir Holland Parker's 3rd Dragoon Guards and 2nd North British Dragoons|
|The Compte de Berard has brought his remaining Dragoon regiment to strengthen the extreme right flank behind the Morliere Legion units which are facing multiple enemy units of skirmishing Jager and Freikorps.|
|A good view back towards Abrantes city with the Grenadiers and Dragoons de la Morliere in the foreground|
Time to return to the British sailors who had infiltrated Abrantes City during the night. Kindly look back to Part 5 if you need a reminder of their mission. Captain Cochrane RN had been thinking hard how to tackle the all-embrasing orders received from the Duke of Marlborough the previous evening....... He had waited till the town square and its environs were completely vacated of French troops, and there was a battle raging outside so he was not about to wait any further till Marlborough's target time of 11 am. Out of sight of the single battalion of Abrantes Citizen's Militia packed into the western gatehouse and suburb he sent one company of sailors to the stone bastion on the harbour, carrying kegs of gunpowder.....around 8 am there was a massive explosion from there which temporarily stunned and distracted the French VIPs and citizen soldiers in Abrantes, and gladdened the hearts of Marlborough's officers as they saw the resulting pall of smoke over the harbour..........
0800 - Complete British success on their right flank but attacks blunted everywhere else: fate of the French VIPs
The artillery fire at Montgomery's on Bellune Hill caused the the loyal Scots to have 5 Hits and they retreated even further - off the playing surface; only the light battery was remaining of this flank guard. Earl Marishal William Keith's small Jacobite Army was now firmly in control of Bellune Hill and the area around the fortified camp and would soon be free to infiltrate through the woods around the Hanoverian right flank. Meanwhile his small cavalry force was pinning the Hanoverian musketeers on the road.
|Above and below: two views of the final situation in front of the Jacobite Camp around 0820|
Lacking any proper notes, having got caught up as player/umpire in the excitement of what was obviously the last move we had time for, I will have to let a selection of my photographs do most of the talking.
|Close up view behind the Dragoon Guard and Prussian Dragoon brigades - would you attack those Morlieres with artillery support on the hill too?|
|The red marker next to the Irish suggests a British success here and they will have to retreat. But there is a line battalion directly behind to prevent any gap occurring.|
|Unfortunately for Ken his forward Musketeer regiment fell foul of volley fire from two French battalions and had to retreat, suggesting cracking open that line would be a hard slog|
|Not a single French unit remains between the Jacobite camp and the Veste river bridge|
|Dillon thoughtfully took this photo of me during the 0800 Move so I could not deny who it was getting all those former troops of Graham's into trouble!|
And what of the British sailors? I find it hard to believe but I was so preoccupied I didn't take a single photo from now on, sorry......
I had to ask Guy what he was going to do about that explosion on the Harbour and he said he wanted to send the Citizens' Militia to investigate. "The whole battalion?", I asked. "Yes, I want to make sure" he replied in a very determined manner, knowing that was where Dumonnaie had quietly stored the Government's gold. So it was that all the battalion vacated the table top and went off to the harbour bastion battery. That of course left no troops whatsoever anywhere near the Hotel de Ville, which was the location of all the French VIPs watching the battle from its upper windows. Happy coincidence then that the Hotel de Ville had been the first on the priority list of places for Cochrane's matelots to search. Suddenly out of nowhere (in fact the buildings surrounding the town square) three companies of sailors (about 12 figures) covered all the entrances to the Town Hall. Since there were, in scale, over 200 sailors fighting and detaining about a dozen French, Scottish and Vestislian officials and servants, there was no doubt about the outcome and we sort of role-played what might happen next.
Taking stock at game's end
It was now nearly 6pm after two days wargaming and we clearly had some kind of result. Bonnie Prince Charlie, The Duke of Vestisle, and Chevalier Dumonnaie were all prisoners at the mercy of the Royal Navy. The Jacobites could no longer win since they had no Stuart would-be monarch to claim the English throne. That was the clearest denouement of this particular drama, but as a wargame who had won the battle or indeed the mini-campaign?
The points tally on the day was to provide part of the answer but the post battle discussion and particularly a few email exchanges in the following days showed that there was much honour to be claimed on both sides and deep implications for some of the occurrences in our little slice of alternative history.
Much more to discuss in the next and final part of "Raid on Vestisle"........